With nanotechnology set to revolutionize almost every industry and branch of
science there has never been a greater need to stay current with the latest
technological developments and opportunities. Nanotech Alert, is the tool you
need for insights into the latest discoveries in nanotechnology before they
become common knowledge. Nanotech Alert not only provides market projections and
analyses, but also introduces you to the organizations and key players involved
in this exciting new field.
Each Alert offers:
* An insightful look at nanotechnology in industries-from aerospace and
electronics to genetic engineering.
Strategic business opportunities for licensing, partnering and investment.
* Presentation of the key players behind the technology including their
* New applications in research and development with analyses of expected
results and impact.
MEMS SEESAW SWITCHES LIGHT
Nailing home a thought that is beginning to occur to a lot of people in a number
of industries, the researchers who created a new kind of optical switch at Bell
Labs state, unequivocally, that the device shows that MEMS will be a disruptive
technology. It can change the paradigm for an entire industry. In this case the
industry is optical communications. MEMS is just such a good fit.
MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) technology was used at Bell Labs to build
a tiny optical switch that works like a seesaw. It's the first practical light
switching technology to use MEMS. Bell Labs researchers, already deep into
optical networking systems, think the advance will be the basic switching
technology for future optical fiber work.
The lab bench prototype is a microscale pivoting bar with a gold plated mirror
on one end. The mirrored end fits in a space between two optical fibers lined up
end to end. If the switch is off, the mirror rests below the cores of the two
fibers, so lightwave signals can travel from the core of one to the other. Apply
a voltage to the other end of the bar and you turn the switch on. A plate is
attached to that end of the bar and electrostatic forces pull the plate down,
lifting the bar so that the mirror reflects the light instead of letting it move
from one fiber to the other.
The new technology could lead to a variety of devices and systems. One Bell Labs
already has in mind is a wavelength add/drop multiplexer. This adds or drops
signals carried on specific wavelengths of light at the places where they are
wanted along the optical data communications line. Others would be provisioning
switches, optically reconfigurable communications networks, power limiters, and
variable attenuators and wavelength-division multiplexed signal equalizers.
Clearly, Bell Labs takes MEMS seriously as a key technology for optical systems
and devices. MEMS devices are small and cheap, they are fabricated like chips,
easily scalable to large numbers of devices, can be integrated with analog and
digital circuits, are robust and long-lived, and very functional. The small
mechanical devices are a very good match to optics in scale, price, and
The seesaw switch would share attractive characteristics with other MEMS
devices. It would be less than 1 mm in size, work at a 100 ns to 1 s speed, work
at electrostatic energy levels, and cost somewhere in the $1 a chip range. The
seesaw switch adds to a growing MEMS components catalog. We also have, at least
in labs, MEMS data modulators, variable attenuators, optical choppers, an
attenuator ribbon, an optical shutter, a light actuated switch, a variable
attenuator, and switch arrays.
Weekly Sample Table of Contents
* MEMS SEESAW SWITCHES LIGHT
* PHOTONS LAUNCH MICROFABRICATION
* NANO TROPHY COULD PROVE USEFUL
* BIGGER NANOTUBES BEND IN WAVES
* SHAPE MOLECULES INTO NANO MACHINES
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